Toyota's president, Akio Toyoda, on March 5 swapped his business jacket for a workman's uniform to address thousands of employees and suppliers in Japan in a bid to boost morale at the crisis-hit car giant.
Akio Toyoda, the grandson of the founder, admitted it had grown too rapidly, leading to the crisis that has forced it to recall more than eight million vehicles worldwide. "It was totally against what we intended. Let me apologize for that," he said at the "all-Toyota emergency meeting" of 2,000 employees, dealers and parts suppliers at the company headquarters in central Japan.
Toyota executives at the event, which was beamed live to offices nationwide in a video conference, briefed workers and other stakeholders on U.S. congressional hearings where they have recently testified.
"I was feeling lonely as Toyota was being criticized repeatedly on TV and in newspapers and I was being chased by the media," Toyoda said of his U.S. visit, during which he spoke in Congress, faced Toyota dealers and appeared on CNN.
But the 53-year-old executive -- wearing an ash-grey jacket just like the rows of employees standing before him -- noted he had felt encouraged by the Toyota factory workers and dealers he met in the United States. "I had been thinking I was striving to protect those people, but I realized I was actually being protected by them. I was deeply moved and thought I was really lucky to be a member of Toyota," he said with a choked voice.
Toyota executives in Washington this week ended a third marathon hearing before U.S. lawmakers over their handling of the safety defects. Toyoda has vowed to rebuild shattered global faith in the firm.
Amid the company's unprecedented crisis, Toyota's leading Japanese labor union said Wednesday it would cancel an annual spring rally for higher wages out of consideration for the automaker's woes. Japanese media have meanwhile reported that the workers will get their customary annual wage increases, which would be an average 7,100 yen (US$80) each per month, in line with the union's demand.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010